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A Baltimore teen has been charged with attempted murder and bias intimidation for allegedly beating, choking, and attempting to gouge out the eyes of a man he suspected of being gay in North Bergen, New Jersey.
According to a news release from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, authorities arrested José Tobias Carranza Serrano, also known as Kevin Lopez, for allegedly luring the victim into a densely wooded area near the south end of the lake in James J. Braddock North Hudson County Park, during the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 22, in order to kill him.
The victim, a 37-year-old man who has intellectual disabilities, was a stranger whom Carranza Serrano had never met before. After luring the man into the wooded area, prosecutors claim, Carranza Serrano punched and kicked the victim in the face, causing multiple fractures and knocking out several teeth. He also allegedly attempted to strangle the victim and gouge his eyes out, according to a complaint lodged in North Bergen Municipal Court.
After attacking the victim, Carranza Serrano allegedly stole a Samsung smart phone and $8 in cash from the victim.
The victim’s sister said that the family became concerned when he didn’t return after his usual evening walk. He was later found unconscious near the path around the lake by a passerby around 5 a.m. He was transported to Hackensack University Medical Center and treated for multiple injuries, including fractured facial bones, bruises, and kidney and liver damage. He was also placed into a coma and remains on a ventilator.
On June 23, Bayonne police arrested Carranza Serrano for trespassing at a church, covered in dried blood, at which point he allegedly confessed to trying to kill the victim. He currently faces charges of first-degree attempted homicide, first-degree bias intimidation, first-degree robbery, and second-degree aggravated assault.
At a preliminary court hearing, Deputy Attorney General Danielle Scarduzio claimed that, when confessing to police, Serrano appeared to lack any sense of guilt.
“He expressed no remorse to the detectives and said that he was ‘satisfied’ with what he had done to the victim, who was a stranger to him,” she said. She also claimed that, because Carranza Serrano does not live in New Jersey and has family members in El Salvador, he should be considered a flight risk. She also argued that his use of an alias, as well as the violent nature of the crime, indicate that he could pose a threat to others and was likely to obstruct or hinder the investigation if released.
Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale denied Serrano bail, and granted a request to detain him until trial. He is currently being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
“I’m satisfied the state has established, by clear and convincing evidence, that no amount of monetary bail…would reasonably assure the court of the defendant’s appearance when required, or the protection and safety of the community if this defendant were released,” DePascale said.
If found guilty, Carranza Serrano could face anywhere from 15 to 30 years in state prison for the bias intimidation charge, and from 10 to 20 years in state prison for the murder charge, with parole ineligibility equal to 85% of the sentence imposed, according to the Attorney General’s Office. The second-degree charge could carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.
“The defendant is charged with attempting to kill a complete stranger because he thought the man was gay,” Grewal said in a statement. “The victim was beaten and choked so badly that he was unconscious for several hours before a passerby found him and called for help. Whether this type of hate-fueled violence is directed against the LGBTQ+ community or other groups, it is terribly destructive to society and we must push back against it in every way possible. That, of course, includes aggressively investigating and prosecuting those who commit such crimes.”
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